2019 Was the ‘Worst Year for Far-Right Domestic Terrorism’

Data showed a sharp increase in hate crimes, and 2020 could prove worse

People hold crosses honoring those killed in the 2019 Walmart shooting which left 23 people dead in a racist attack targeting Latinos. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

In an October interview, extremism expert Brian Levin predicted to GEN that when the Federal Bureau of Investigations released data for 2019, it would turn out to be “the worst year for far-right domestic terrorism that we’ve seen this century.” This week, his prediction proved correct.

According to data released by the agency on Monday, more people in the United States were murdered in hate-motivated killings last year than in any year since the FBI began collecting that data. Hate crimes as a whole also reached their highest level in more than a decade.

Fifty-one people died in hate crime murders in 2019, a figure that includes the 22 victims of an August 3 mass shooting at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas. The shooter said he was specifically targeting Mexicans. In total, there were 8,812 victims of hate crimes last year, up from 8,646 in 2018 and the highest known number since 2008.

Of the 4,784 hate crimes motivated by race or ethnicity, more than 48% were motivated by anti-Black bias, according to the FBI. And of the 1,650 hate crimes motivated by religious bias, more than 60% were anti-Jewish. That represents a 7% increase in religion-based hate crimes from 2018. Perpetrators of these crimes were overwhelmingly likely to be white.

Levin, director of California State University, San Bernardino’s Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism, noted that hate crimes tend to cluster around political events, such as elections. Given that some of the worst months for hate crimes in the past decade have occurred during or around election cycles, it’s possible that when data for 2020 is eventually released, this year will break more records.

D.C.-based reporter covering politics, housing, and the social safety net.

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